Plan appears in works to keep Rivermen at Peoria Civic Center
While no agreement is officially in place, it appears the Peoria Rivermen could remain at Carver Arena beyond the current Southern Professional Hockey League season.
In a recent post on the “Operation Save the Rivermen!” group page on Facebook, City Council member Denis Cyr posted: “Rivermen have been saved,” and added an announcement is planned for the Feb. 28 council meeting.
In a request for comment on details, Cyr told WCBU they “still have work to do the next two weeks,” but an item would be on the upcoming council agenda. A former Rivermen and NHL player, Cyr said he was not able to provide any additional information.
The current lease between the Rivermen and the Peoria Civic Center expires at the end of this hockey season. Team and arena management have not yet agreed on a new lease.
About 50 fans of the Rivermen appeared at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Mike Olson, a season ticket holder and Rivermen Booster Club board member addressed the horseshoe during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I do not want to see our city lose a 41-year staple in our community that provides good affordable family entertainment and inspiration to our young people,” said Olson.
Emily Hagaman, the wife of Rivermen captain and Dunlap native Alec Hagaman, also addressed the council.
“I know you guys aren't the final decision makers on the Peoria Rivermen staying in the Peoria Civic Center, but the people who are are appointed by the city and your voice has significant pull within the PCC,” she said.
“The only issue I see with this is that we do not have a contract, which is what we truly need for the Rivermen to be saved. I know that tensions are high between the PCC and the Peoria Rivermen organization. We know this last hurdle is going to be great and the only way our Peoria Rivermen can truly be saved. Please don't stop working to keep them here. We need your voices to pull through for us.”
At issue is the need for a new ice plant at Carver Arena. The current ice plant is more than 40 years old and leaks refrigerant. Replacing the ice plant was estimated to cost $2.5 million three years ago, although that price has likely risen since then.
The Civic Center has been awarded a $25 million state grant for renovations and other improvements. But a new ice plant is not high enough on management’s priority list to be covered by the state funding.
Rivermen team owner Bart Rogers declined to comment on a potential agreement or provide any possible details regarding the team’s potential home for the 2023-24 season. Similarly, Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich and Civic Center general manager Rik Edgar said they could not comment.
“I’m encouraged by the comments that I've heard today, both here and in the media that there is a plan being worked to keep the Rivermen in Peoria, and it seems to address the need for the ice plant at the Peoria Civic Center,” said Metamora resident Brad Salisbury during the council meeting.
“But this is more than just a mechanical system that needs repair. This is about quality of life in the Peoria area, the city and the region. The Peoria Rivermen do more for the city and this region than only the revenue that's brought into the spurious Civic Center on game nights.”
The Rivermen have 11 home games scheduled at Carver Arena for the rest of the season, not including a March 4 game against Evansville at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington. The Rivermen are the reigning SPHL champions and currently sit atop the league standings (27-9-2, 56 points).